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We Aren't the World: Why Americans Make Bad Study Subjects

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the we-are-the-outliers dept.

Stats 450

Lasrick writes "This is just fascinating: Joe Henrich and his colleagues are shaking the foundations of psychology and economics, and explain why social science studies of Westerners — and Americans in particular — don't really tell us about the human condition: 'Given the data, they concluded that social scientists could not possibly have picked a worse population from which to draw broad generalizations. Researchers had been doing the equivalent of studying penguins while believing that they were learning insights applicable to all birds.'"

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If you wanted to know about humans, (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005473)

why would you study a bunch of primitive, gun-loving hillbilly rednecks?

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (5, Insightful)

ByOhTek (1181381) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005533)

Ummm... We certainly aren't primitive.

As far as gun loving rednecks, that's just a small, overly-vocal part of our community. Every community has the small group of overly vocal nut-jobs that makes them look bad. Hell, yours has you, doesn't it?

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005581)

The internet does as well. In fact it has made the minority seem like a majority for a long time. It is amazingly easy to create an echo chamber here.

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005583)

Nuh-uh, I don't live in a community you stupid American. Dumb Americans always assuming stuff about other peoples.

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (5, Informative)

Sique (173459) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006113)

Nuh-uh, I don't live in a community you stupid American.

According to TFA, this makes you exceptionally close to the typical American, who have been shown to be the group of humans most likely to view themselves outside a culture or community.

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (1, Funny)

asylumx (881307) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006245)

Nuh-uh, I don't live in a community you stupid American. Dumb Americans always assuming stuff about other peoples.

Must be French...

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005637)

Atleast most of the US's gun toting rednecks actually use toilet paper.

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005667)

Well, sophisticated and civilized people worldwide have learned to use a bidet and leave the toilet paper to the dumb unwashed masses. Toilet paper merely smears your ass with shit. So, yes, primitive indeed.

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005907)

I don't think most Europeans (French) bother to wipe at all...at least from what I smelled when I was there.

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43006319)

It's clear that you do not know how to use toilet paper.

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (1)

davester666 (731373) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005713)

Using it as a condom doesn't count.

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005647)

small? there are 300 million guns in this country.

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005683)

Owned by 32% of the population.

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005753)

32% of the population, clearly a teeny-tiny minority.

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005799)

Less than a third of the population. So, yes, a small minority.

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43006031)

Roughly 30% of the population was all it took to throw the British out on their ear. It may be a minority in terms of simple math but in all reality having 30 percent of a people invested into any ideaology in a society of our nature is substantial at the same time.

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (1, Informative)

asylumx (881307) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006339)

Things the British of 1776 didn't have that the current government does:

1. Destroyers [wikipedia.org]
2. High-Tech Choppers [wikipedia.org]
3. Fighter Jets [wikipedia.org]
4. Battle Tanks [wikipedia.org]
5. Flying Death Robots [wikipedia.org]
The list goes on and on... Glad you think your little AR-15 is the sound of freedom, but good luck throwing off THAT government.

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43006091)

Ugh, only a small minority of the population are women of child-bearing age. Why do we have to pay for their birth control or even allow abortions?

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43006149)

"small minority" No that would be intelligent socialists, very very small minority. Show me one!

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (2)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006391)

Another AC made the same point. But do you really think that every one of those people owns exactly 3 guns? There are probably a fair number of people who have a single pistol, shotgun, or rifle, and a fail number of people who need to use one for work... I don't know if I'd call such people "gun loving".

We have 1.5 million active military personnel, and another 1.5 million reservists. That's a full 1% of our population. Another approximately million Americans work as sworn officers of some kind. I couldn't find statistics on armed guards, but I'd bet that comes in at a million as well.

The pool you are left with: people who own several weapons who could probably be called "gun loving".... that pool is probably under 10%.

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43006053)

"32%"

So almost half the adult population (children account for about 20% of the population)

It could also be almost one for every household, since the average household size is between 2 and 3. You may not own a gun, but you probably know someone who does. It might even be a close relative. It's no wonder how so many criminals and crazy people who don't "own" guns themselves managed to get access to one.

I also heard something about you only need about 1/3 of the population to have a revolution, because there's only 1/3 against you while the remaining 1/3 are indifferent

TLDR: 32% is a actually a high number

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006229)

If I'm generous to your point and assume that the distribution of guns per owner is normal about the average of 3, then that leaves 50% of the guns in 16% of the people's hands. I suspect the distribution is skewed toward even fewer people owning most of the guns.

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005807)

Around half of your voting population continually chooses the GOP. Ignore the theoretical ideals you place on the GOP, listen to what the candidates say and how they try to obtain votes. Do it objectively and critically. I think that says it all.

I'm not saying the Dem's are any better, they're not, but they do make appeals to a more sophisticated electorate as well as pandering to the lowest common denominator.

It's all lies on both sides, but as an outsider, the GOP are certainly far more primitive than their counterparts in Europe for example.

----

I recently took a personally antithetical subjective look at some conservative blogs recently, allowing myself to be sucked into it, trying to believe it, and agree with it. It was a very scary experience, and that's what I ended up seeing that kind of culture does, instilling fear to manipulate people against their own interests and their own peers, because of different religion, social norms or the apparently abhorrent idea of peaceful resistance or a workforce strike.

The GOP ideology would appear to be, you either walk away (quit your unfair employment, leave the country or similar), or you kill or threaten with violence the people you disagree with. Having an informed, reasoned discussion where everyone can put their viewpoints across, and people can be called up on misinformation never seems to enter into it. It's always about about 'gut feelings' and just 'knowing whats right'.

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43006347)

"look at some conservative blogs"

"you either walk away (quit your unfair employment, leave the country or similar), or you kill or threaten with violence the people you disagree with"

Dude can I get some of what you are smoking please? You are seriously deluded if you actually believe any of this shit.

First, you have to understand that Republican (GOP=Republican) does not equal republican, and neither of them equal conservative.

And none of the above would have anything to do with your assertion that the Republican, conservative of otherwise, would call for the death of those who disagree with them. Above all the conservative believes in individual liberty, natural rights and this includes that all men have the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Whoever it is that is teaching you all this crap is deceiving you. Here is a question you need to think about; *why* would they do that to you, *what* is in it for them?

Aren't all you nerds supposed to be all about avoiding the groupthink, thinking out of the box and all that shit? Well when do you stand up and use your own brains for once, god gave you people brains, use them!

Good grief.

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43006361)

you kill or threaten with violence the people you disagree with

Is that not the core principle behind all government? After all, there's a reason why government needs (1) guns, and (2) a special right to employ them in offense, not merely in defense.

This is simply the reality of coercive authority. Those who disagree are threatened with violence, and if they attempt to defend themselves, they will eventually be killed.

Name one government on this planet that doesn't follow this principle. They have to, because it is exactly that principle (coercive authority) which defines government.

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (4, Insightful)

DFurno2003 (739807) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005847)

Rednecks are a very small part of the gun culture. They happen to be the most vocal of us. Kind of like how the really weird and disgusting LGBTQ people seem to be the most vocal of those people.

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (5, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006413)

Rednecks are a very small part of the gun culture. They happen to be the most vocal of us. Kind of like how the really weird and disgusting LGBTQ people seem to be the most vocal of those people.

I assume this is at -1 for Unpleasant Truth?

It never ceases to amaze me how self-proclaimed "intellectuals" have the exact same hangups about unpleasant but true speech as all the folks they like to pretend they outsmart.

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (1)

GaryOlson (737642) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005933)

Certain entities in every organization/organism must take the active role of removing or thwarting the life sucking parasites. In this example, the parasite is government. And the gun loving rednecks have to be vocal to be heard above the mind numbing droning of professional politicians and their symbiotes the main stream media.

Just a normal ecosystem, nothing to see here, move along.

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43006029)

Small indeed. 4 million NRA members think differently.

300 million guns, that's about 90 per 100 people.

Sorry to bring facts up.

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (0)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005587)

why would you study a bunch of primitive, gun-loving hillbilly rednecks?

You seem to be thinking of southerners, not Americans...

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006441)

why would you study a bunch of primitive, gun-loving hillbilly rednecks?

You seem to be thinking of southerners, not Americans...

... and a subset of a subset, at that.

So, to answer the original question: Because you don't really know the proper way to do research.

Re:If you wanted to know about humans, (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006383)

In the context of TFA? So you can understand how they're different and what makes them unique. The article does actually mention people from the southern US, though perhaps not rednecks:

Men raised in the honor culture of the American South have been shown to experience much larger surges of testosterone after insults than do Northerners.

Is Linux really that... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005495)

...much more widely used in the US?
  1. First Post?
  2. Middle Post?
  3. Last Post?
  4. Only Post?

Re:Is Linux really that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43006389)

1st post fail

Re:Is Linux really that... (2)

loufoque (1400831) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006491)

It's more widely used outside the US.

Fuck all ya all (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005523)

YOu euro-trash are teh ones that are different!

Fuck all YA all.

'Merica! YEAH!

Re:Fuck all ya all (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005597)

Can't help but notice you forgot the " 'Merica, love it or leave it you fucking pink commie, fuck yeah! " and the " USA! USA! USA! " while shooting your AR-15 into the air, buddy.

What? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005551)

"Researchers had been doing the equivalent of studying penguins while believing that they were learning insights applicable to all birds.'"

Are they saying all the Americans are fat birds, unable to fly?

Re:What? (1, Funny)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005613)

>Are they saying all the Americans are fat birds, unable to fly?

Not without an 'enhanced' at down. No.

Re:What? (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005623)

at/pat. uck.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005961)

They have drones.

Re:What? (4, Insightful)

ByOhTek (1181381) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005649)

I think they are saying, that in a couple small tests, many cultures, particularly less wealthy or more family oriented cultures, react differently than Americans, and therefore Americans make incredibly bad case studies.

Bullshit.

It's better to say, that we are in a different basic situation, so of course we make bad case studies WHEN BEING COMPARED TO OTHER CULTURES WITH DIFFEREING CONDITIONS. You can make that statement about ANY culture. And every culture will probably have a case of tests where it will be an incredibly bad study - particularly in areas where the influencing factors on an individuals decisions on the topic, are drastically different from those of other locations.

Re:What? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005771)

Most of the world still lives under totalitarian regimes.

China has 1.3 billion out of the 6 billion or so in the world. Throw in the various Asian nations, the African subcontinent, and various middle eastern populations and there ya go.

Re:What? (3, Interesting)

pjt33 (739471) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006055)

I haven't RTFA either, but I suspect that someone along the line is overstating the point to attract attention, and that the real point is that many psychology papers extrapolate wildly from a highly biased population to universal human behaviour. Studies which use only North American subjects and claim that "people" (rather than "North Americans") statistically behave in a certain way would be one salient example, and another would be studies which use only students (easy to recruit if you're based in a university and willing to pay a very small fee for participation) and again claim that "people" behave in a certain way rather than "students at XYZ University".

Re:What? (4, Informative)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006435)

Here's some figures to show you how drastic it is:

A 2008 survey of the top six psychology journals dramatically shows how common that assumption was: more than 96 percent of the subjects tested in psychological studies from 2003 to 2007 were Westerners—with nearly 70 percent from the United States alone. Put another way: 96 percent of human subjects in these studies came from countries that represent only 12 percent of the world’s population.

Among Westerners, the data showed that Americans were often the most unusual, leading the researchers to conclude that "American participants are exceptional even within the unusual population of Westerners—outliers among outliers."

Re:What? (4, Informative)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006191)

I think they are saying, that in a couple small tests, many cultures, particularly less wealthy or more family oriented cultures, react differently than Americans, and therefore Americans make incredibly bad case studies. Bullshit.

Yes, what you've said is bullshit, because that's not what they're saying:

social scientists could not possibly have picked a worse population from which to draw broad generalizations

Of all the populations they could have picked - no matter how bad it is to make such generalisations in any case - the US was the worst one to pick for making such generalisations. So you could have summed it up as:

many cultures, particularly less wealthy or more family oriented cultures, react differently from each other, and that if you want a generalisation of the entire human population, America is the worst place to look.

I see that it's automatically something to be offended by, though.

Re:What? (-1, Flamebait)

nigelo (30096) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005705)

They are saying Americans are not human, apparently, or at least, have no human characteristics..

No, just saying you're generally all weird. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005795)

This is, however, a form of exceptionalism. So be happy!

Re:What? (3, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006105)

They are saying Americans are not human, apparently, or at least, have no human characteristics..

Hmm, based on your post, I would posit that wherever you're from, the people there can't read a full article and come to a proper conclusion.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005935)

Unfortunately, much to many of its citizens dismay, the United States is closer to a cross between an annoying neighbor that can't mind his own business and a well-armed thug that is willing to use force to take what he wants.

Re:What? (5, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006061)

Are they saying all the Americans are fat birds, unable to fly?

In Third World countries, only the rich can afford to be fat.

In America, only the rich can afford to be thin.

And in America, almost everyone can afford to fly. Which is unfortunate, if you get the middle seat, between two fat folks.

bnurp? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005563)

no shit sherlock

duh (2)

pfaffa (1236738) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005575)

Well Duh, studying one of the richest and most powerful nation is stupid. You can only learn so much about a group studying it's extremes, not to mention powerful societies tend to do there own thing (because they don't see a need to copy things) and the longer in power the more noticeable it becomes.

Re: duh (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005889)

You mean studying a country that thinks and behaves like it is rich while actually being flat broke (actually way way way beyond flat broke and into "insanely reckless" territory) while continuing to waste trillions of dollars on un productive activities.

Re: duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43006289)

I bet your country is broke too...and better at hiding its crappy finances.

Re:duh (1)

BatGnat (1568391) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006425)

Rich? How many trillions of dollars in debt is the U.S.?

Wow! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005617)

This headline is the most hateful and prejudiced comment about Americans I have heard all day!

Re:Wow! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005701)

Yes! I propose we issue some sort of edict calling for the decapitation of the person writing such offensive stuff.

Oh, wait. No, we don't do that. See, we aren't that bad...

Re:Wow! (5, Insightful)

Internetuser1248 (1787630) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006495)

This headline is the most hateful and prejudiced comment about Americans I have heard all day!

Wow, you must live a very sheltered existence. I would be flattered if someone said that about me. I don't want to represent the average.

Just to make your day even more interesting: I have noticed at least 3 posts from people living in the US who took offence at this article. This means that some >0 percentage of the US population who can both read and write, either don't know what "make bad study subjects" means, or they aspire for their nation to be totally average in every way.

There, what I just wrote is now the most hateful and prejudiced comment about 'Americans' you have heard all day.

That only works in an sorta uniform population (-1, Troll)

whitroth (9367) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005633)

What we have in the US is a completely non-uniform population.

*rant*
  I mean, the people who vote for the neoConfederate Tea Party Republicans, and the funniementalist who claim to believe in Jesus as love, and want to create a dictatorship to make sure everyone belives as they do don't even live on this planet.
*/rant*

The US is completely fractured - the so-called "culture wars" are literally talking about complete, non-geographic or semi-geographic societies. To try to come to conclusions with that - and I haven't read the article, but I'll wager it's a very small sample size - is ludicrous.

              mark

Re:That only works in an sorta uniform population (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006043)

Hmm, funny how the left is beginning the intellectual foundations of tyranny by dismantling "On Liberty" by John Stuart Mill [nybooks.com] . Yes, the link does lead to a positive review by an elitist magazine. We shouldn't be free because we might make the wrong decisions. it's for our own good. Of course, the reactionaries (right) will be in for a full dose of this treatment.

"The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or mental, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right."
-- John Stuart Mill, "On Liberty"

"You are dictatorial." My dear sirs, you are right, that is just what we are. All the experience the Chinese people have accumulated through several decades teaches us to enforce the people's democratic dictatorship, that is, to deprive the reactionaries of the right to speak and let the people alone have that right.
-- Mao Zedong

"No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?"
-- George Orwell, "Animal Farm"

Re:That only works in an sorta uniform population (3, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006119)

The US is completely fractured ... To try to come to conclusions with that - and I haven't read the article, but I'll wager it's a very small sample size - is ludicrous.

You're simultaneously completely missing the point of TFA, and yet hitting it dead on. According to TFA, not only aren't Americans uniformly distributed, but the whole world isn't, in ways that haven't been considered before. Certain assumptions, like having a perception based on interpreting straight lines in a 3D context, turn out to only be valid among a Western population who, for example, grew up with straight walls. The researchers in TFA aren't saying that Americans are particularly bad study subjects, but rather that even basic perceptions long thought to be universal are really influenced by culture.

The way of the world (1)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005641)

Lord Bradley: Precisely. But, if our economy was threatened, then it would be our duty to protect our intrests.
Anna Leonowens: Our economy?! Our interests?!
Lady Bradley: The ways of America are the ways of the world, my dear.

Non-human and proud of it (-1, Troll)

Tailhook (98486) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005695)

Innovation in 'social science' amounts to finding new ways to disparage Americans specifically, and more generally anyone with the temerity to emulate them. These are professional malcontents; the finest hate-mongers on Earth, teaching us all what we are to loath. Hindu hut-dwellers are about the only form of humanity not subject to their highly refined contempt.

Who is human? (4, Insightful)

csb (23046) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005715)

If one was trying to scientifically "draw broad generalizations" about humans, why would you ever select samples from just one nation (regardless of which one)?
Use a dozen nations, some more developed than others. Heck, use one hundred nations. How else would you be abled to defend statistically valid results?

Leaving out any arbitrary set of 330 million humans would seem to lead you further away from meaningful conclusions. Are Americans not also human?
Singling out one country for inclusion or exclusion sounds like something other than impartial, apolitical science for drawing "broad generalizations".

If you don't like America (or wherever), that's fine and dandy... but please don't call your hand-picked findings the "human condition". Especially if you're going to choose the humans based upon any one individual's peculiar set of ideals.

Re:Who is human? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005765)

If one was trying to scientifically "draw broad generalizations" about humans, why would you ever select samples from just one nation (regardless of which one)? Use a dozen nations, some more developed than others. Heck, use one hundred nations. How else would you be abled to defend statistically valid results?

Well, you should tell that to economists. Almost all modern mainstream ecnomics is built upon observations of WEIRD people and then simply generalizing those upon everyone else.

Re:Who is human? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43006063)

Are Americans not also human?

It occasionally becomes important to distinguish [wikipedia.org] between humans and non-humans.

Ironically, because my karma protecting instincts have me making Nazi references as AC, I was told "You failed to confirm you are a human" when I overlooked the captcha.

true, but fits the implicit instrumental goal (4, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005721)

The instrumental goal underlying a lot of psychology and economics research is "what should we do in the U.S.?" It's all dressed up in basic-science, idealistic language, but ultimately what the penguin taxpayers funding the research most care about is penguin economics and penguin psychology, not so much the rest of the birds...

Re:true, but fits the implicit instrumental goal (4, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006395)

Us penguins use our penguin research to try and extrapolate how we should help African Swallows.
No wonder our attempts at shaping non-Western countries has spectacularly and repeatedly failed.

Explains outsourcing (and the American backlash) (1)

srussia (884021) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005727)

FTFA:

To begin with, the offers from the first player were much lower. In addition, when on the receiving end of the game, the Machiguenga rarely refused even the lowest possible amount. "It just seemed ridiculous to the Machiguenga that you would reject an offer of free money," says Henrich.

"They just didn't understand why anyone would sacrifice money to punish someone who had the good luck of getting to play the other role in the game."

The big corporations were way ahead of the curve.

American Exceptionalism! (5, Funny)

Freddybear (1805256) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005741)

Now scientifically proven! ;)

Flamebait? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005751)

It should be possible to mod an entire article as flamebait...

*grabs popcorn*

We Aren't the World ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005757)

only the part that matters.

Doesn't matter, anyway (0)

petes_PoV (912422) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005767)

Few of the studies have reproducible results and fewer are able to draw hard, unambiguous, numerical conclusions from their data. So it doesn't make much difference whether american students or penguins were used as test subjects - unless the study was on the motivational effect of raw fish.

Populations (1)

Quinn Vinlove (2841469) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005779)

Um, is it not a good idea in general to isolate studies to one select population, US or not is you want to look at the world?

This is why I didn't take psych courses in college (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005783)

From talking with dormmates, it seemed that they consist of long-winded, carefully documented presentations of the obvious. Like we couldn't have guessed that the "ultimatum game" (two participants must agree on how to split up $100, or they both leave empty handed) might not have the usual end result in a Stone Age tribe not used to handling money?

I knew it! (0)

alphabet26 (534873) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005789)

I always knew Americans were poor examples of human beings!

The myth of the "universal" westerner. (1)

Ostracus (1354233) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005813)

Studies show that Western urban children grow up so closed off in man-made environments that their brains never form a deep or complex connection to the natural world.

So what does their study say about "western" who have been raised rural?

Re:The myth of the "universal" westerner. (1)

bobamu (943639) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006197)

They are probably applying for the funding of that study right now.

Re:The myth of the "universal" westerner. (2)

Tailhook (98486) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006231)

So what does their study say about "western" who have been raised rural?

You may safely assume they fall under the "primitive, gun-loving hillbilly rednecks" [slashdot.org] stereotype and omit them from humanity as well. Given contemporary social science I suspect any America "raised rural" would necessarily occupy the "least human" end of the humanity continuum.

They faked the illusion graphics! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43005897)

Müller-Lyer illusion -- Put those images in an image editor and measure the lines -- they've presented unequal lines to exaggerate the illusion -- and make its application completely meaningless to the viewers. Pretty lame.

This could be a hit. (3, Funny)

mrjb (547783) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005925)

"We aren't the world! We aren't the children! We aren't the ones who make a better day..."

Mod summary off-topic. (5, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005943)

The article isn't actually about the Western world, or how Americans are "bad study subjects". Rather, the research TFA talks about is indications that Western assumptions about cognition are based on Western culture, rather than biological design*. In essence, the researchers acknowledge that some of the basic fundamental ideas of perception may not be so fundamental.

It really has nothing to do with Americans being inherently bad study subjects. Rather, it accuses the field of anthropology of focusing too heavily on a single (though changing) culture throughout its history. In other words, sampling bias exists.

* "Design" In the "structure and function" sense, not the "somebody intentionally built this" sense.

Re:Mod summary off-topic. (5, Informative)

Sique (173459) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006271)

It really has nothing to do with Americans being inherently bad study subjects.

It really has.

It has a lot of words about how the Americans often are located far at one side of the bell curve and very seldom "just average humans".

Re:Mod summary off-topic. (1)

DeadDecoy (877617) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006471)

To add to your statement, TFA indicates that results specifically from prisoner's dilemma are only valid for Western cultures, or rather that they haven't been thoroughly investigated in other groups. I imagine this is true for a large number of studies that perform culturally sensitive experiments such as word association, reports on participant's perceptions, etc. This is pretty much basic science, where your experimental results are true for the randomized group your sampling from but cannot be generalized to other groups without verification. This does not necessarily invalidate other types of experiments or the field as a whole. Rather it presents new evidence, which can be used to refine our theories.

No fucking shit. (2, Insightful)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | about a year and a half ago | (#43005979)

social scientists could not possibly have picked a worse population from which to draw broad generalizations

Uh, that's because America is diverse as fuck. Hell, humanity is diverse as fuck.
Trying to draw accurate yet broad generalizations about humanity are impossible.

Holy Crap (5, Informative)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006037)

This summary has almost nothing to do with the underlying article, and the headline draws a completely erroneous conclusion. It isn't about Americans being bad study subjects at all, but rather the idea that extrapolating between two cultural groups that have vastly different environments is much harder than previously thought.

Experimental differences (3, Insightful)

WoOS (28173) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006077)

A sentence from the cited article might explain the different behaviour experienced when running the "Ultimatum" game with the Machiguenga

The stakes Henrich used in the game with the Machiguenga were not insubstantial—roughly equivalent to the few days’ wages they sometimes earned from episodic work with logging or oil companies.

So if one offers a valuable and rare commodity to people living a life near sustenance, one gets other results than if one does the same experiment with people who have most of their needs (over)fulfilled and do not need the stakes of the game? That is IMHO not surprising but quite in line with Maslow's hierarchy of needs [wikipedia.org] .

Maybe social scientists (and economists) should start to evaluate the context of their experiments more carefully. Alas they are missing the 'laws of nature' [slashdot.org] whose violation leads to checking every plug.

Shock term for attention (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006127)

The article suggests that Americans are 'weird,' but it's really just a term chosen for attention. What they mean is that, Americans are one out of many culture group, and they've found in other culture groups things are different. It's quotes like this that cause people to disrespect the social sciences: Let's be charitable and suggest that the reason they didn't realize this until recently was because of a lack of grant money to study it formally?

Research published late last year suggested psychological differences at the city level too.

Some of the differences they've found actually are interesting, though. Like this familiar illusion [psmag.com] , which has tricked many Westerners, but Bushmen from the kalahari see them as obviously equal length. (Let's hope they didn't use those images [psmag.com] for comparison in the actual tests, as this guy pointed out [slashdot.org] , the lines actually are different length!)

I've often thought that someone with a good set of scientific principles could go into the fields of sociology and do a lot of easy work and get famous.

Screwing up the test questions doesn't help. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43006129)

The words "Researchers found that Americans perceive the line with the ends feathered outward (A) as being longer than the line with the arrow tips (B)." accompanies a drawing in which the "arrow tips" are labled "A" and the other line is labled "B"

Hopefully this was the journalist and his editor being morons. If the researcher himself made this mistake then the test results are worthless.

Oh really? (1)

dvdungeon (761065) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006193)

Not sure any shaking is actually taking place here. I'm currently studying psychology and we've already come across examples of cultural affects on results in experimentation in the first year (and the experiments we've studied go back to the 60s/70s). Mind you, in ecomonics, doing some actual science would be ground breaking (you know your 'science' must be soft when psychologists think you're a bunch of light weights).

possible insight into some vegetarians (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43006247)

The line, "Children who grow up constantly interacting with the natural world are much less likely to anthropomorphize other living things into late childhood", reminded me of much of my (admittedly anecdotal) experience with two vegetarians. I've had two friends that were lifelong vegetarians and decided to move out of the city and onto farms. One of them actually started a farm. The other one I met later in life and had moved back from an agricultural commune. Both had become meat-eaters; though not hard-core ones. It seems like spending time directly with nature changed them. Mother Nature, apparently, is perfectly fine with inter-specie killing for food.

Myself, I grew up on a farm. I've only understood vegetarianism (for moral reasons) in an intellectual sense. I've never felt the emotional problem with killing other animal types.

(This is only an observation. I have no problem with vegetarianism. To each his own.)

Penguins?! (1)

The Other White Meat (59114) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006253)

"the equivalent of studying GLORIOUS EAGLES." get your imagery straight.

Re:Penguins?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43006497)

Penguins also make sense as they tend to stick together when it's cold, gold or oil, and they have a reasonably uniform taste in conservative business clothing.

Real story. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43006261)

I think the real story is that sociologist were dumb enough to think that 'fairness' is evolutionary determined.
If I throw a ball at your face and you duck... that's biological; no one wants to get hit in the face.
But fairness? Seriously? No wonder no one they so dumped upon by the other 'real' sciences.

Difficulty in teaching languages / cultures (1, Interesting)

CODiNE (27417) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006305)

As a foreign language instructor for adult students I've certainly struggled with the American mindset. In every class there's always a few who I call anti-culturalist. They just can't comprehend that there's other ways of doing things that aren't wrong but simply different. The more a person has traveled the less they seem to struggle with this. Everyone should spend a year or two living somewhere really foreign, that would do a lot for human relations. Maybe the size of the United States just makes the rest of the world seem so far away, theoretical.

Obvious (1)

fredprado (2569351) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006365)

As usual in most "scientific" papers, this one talks about obviousness. All cultures have their own idiosyncrasies. To use subjects from one to predicted behavior on the other is a perfect path to failure. Actually even using groups inside a given culture to predict the behavior of the whole is due to failure most of the time.

"...Broad generalizations..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43006393)

"...they concluded that social scientists could not possibly have picked a worse population from which to draw broad generalizations. "

Well let's be sane here.

Any single population of any single country is probably a poor pick if you're looking to characterize all of humanity.

Someone else suggested modding the article flamebait, I agree.

Occam's Razor (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006469)

social science studies of Westerners — and Americans in particular — don't really tell us about the human condition

In other words: the concept of ceteris paribus [wikipedia.org] is utter bullshit.

Film at 11.

Captain Obvious (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about a year and a half ago | (#43006513)

Captain Obvious is telling us social studies are useless.
As if we didn't already know that!

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